A 'beginner dulcimer'

4 months ago
519 posts

(Generally "Beginner Dulcimer" means a less expensive instrument -- perhaps with a cardboard body, or a body made from birch veneer rather than 'planks' of walnut or maple or whatever.)

    What confused me was the ones I have hear mention they had a 'beginner dulcimer' didn't have the cardboard or veneer or over seas type but a decent walnut dulcimer - that is why I was wondering.  So, that would make sense if they had above mention type.

Maybe, just a beginner one for them since they are beginning and later they will go for one - more to their needs as they learn what those needs may be.


Dusty Turtle
4 months ago
900 posts

Indeed, Ken provides the essential info here: a beginner's dulcimer is intended to be as inexpensive as possible.  So you will not find self-trimming tuners or ebony overlay or a bevel to rest your arm or a radiused fretboard or any of the other niceties that you may discover you want on your ideal dulcimer. Hopefully the builder took his or her work seriously enough that the intonation and action are good. 

But certainly if you find a beginner dulcimer to continue to serve your needs, there is no reason to have to abandon it for something more expensive.  I know someone out here in the Bay Area who bought the same beginner dulcimer that Ken refers to and two years later bought a more expensive one, only to discover she preferred the beginner dulcimer, so that is what she plays.

My first dulcimer was not technically a beginner dulcimer, but I bought it before I really understood extra frets or fretboard overlay and stuff like that. I still have the dulcimer, but I consider it a loaner and let people borrow it while they decide if they want to get serious and get their own dulcimer.

Dusty T., Northern California
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4 months ago
1,784 posts

Ken has given a good overview.

I'd like to add this- when i've gotten 'beginner' instruments of any kind and then later on purchased higher end examples,  I sometimes keep the beginner one and start calling it my 'travel dulcimer' (travel banjo, etc).  It becomes an instrument i can take anywhere without worrying about it as much as I'd worry about my more expensive instrument.

Your 'beginner dulcimer' can eventually graduate to being your wonderful  'travel dulcimer'...and it will no longer have to suffer any stigma!  dancecool

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Ken Hulme
4 months ago
1,485 posts

Generally "Beginner Dulcimer" means a less expensive instrument -- perhaps with a cardboard body, or a body made from birch veneer rather than 'planks' of walnut or maple or whatever.  Also a less expensive set of tuning machines, perhaps friction tuners rather than geared tuners.  Also, the action of a beginner may not be optimized for a particular style of playing.

The important factor is the precision of the fret layout, regardless of whether the body is made from Leggos, or cardboard or the finest lumber money can buy.  If the layout of the frets is not precise, you simply will not get the proper notes, and that makes any instrument worthless.

No reason a "beginner" dulcimer can't be just part of your suite of instruments.  I have one of Harpmaker Dave's Student Models which he slightly customized for me a number of years ago.  It has a deeper sound than I prefer these days, but otherwise works as good or better than any of the other dulcimers I've owned or built.

4 months ago
216 posts

I don't know nearly as much as the others here, but my opinion is that sometimes beginners are not ready to commit to paying a lot.  Some who are more professional and perform a lot tend to get/need higher end dulcimers for concert settings and better quality sound from what I've read, though I've not experienced what that means.  I don't see myself there, so for whatever I perform (church) mine are just fine!

4 months ago
519 posts

 If a dulcimer has good action & a sound you like, why would it be a beginner dulcimer and not just a dulcimer, part of our collection of different dulcimers?

I have hear some say they have a 'beginner dulcimer'- I'm sure price of a dulcimer is part of starting out & some dulcimers do sell for less than others. But is a dulcimer a 'beginner dulcimer' or are we beginner players and couldn't the dulcimer be fine for later when we are more advanced?

When does a dulcimer become more advance or professional, what should we look for as we begin to advance in our dulcimer journey?